Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Iron Brewer Competition

June 11, 2010

Philly Beer Week isn’t just for metropolitan venues and professional brewers; with the thousand-plus events occurring in the ten-day span, it's no surprise to find beer week festivities overflowing into the suburbs. And at Iron Hill of West Chester, the Iron Brewer event highlighted the local talents of the home brewers extraordinaire of West Chester’s BUZZ club. If you’ve ever watched the Food Network, you know the basic idea: the ‘Commissioner,’ in this case Iron Hill’s Larry Horwitz, provided each competitor a ‘secret ingredient’ in March to serve as a base from which to craft their masterpiece. Twenty participants pitted their zymurgical prowess against one another to come up with the best beer from an identical pilsner malt wort with up to five pounds of additional fermentables.
By all accounts, each of the entrants put up a fierce battle, but a clear winner emerged in David Houseman’s Groundhog Baltic Porter. Fermented with an ale yeast under lagering conditions, Groundhog is a thick, black abyss with hints of raisins, prunes, and a trace of butternut squash.
On the night that Dave was awarded the coveted Iron Brewer trophy, Iron Hill West Chester offered the porter both on draft and firkin, which Dave and Larry brewed after the competition. The firkin version was even tastier than the draft, but even Larry agreed the best iteration was Dave's original. We were lucky to taste the bona fide home brew version, which brought a slightly hot alcohol character to the flavor and more intense nut and fruit notes.
Dave named the winning beer, along with all his other homebrews, after the groundhog that lives in his backyard. One of his favorites was Groundhog IPA.
It was interesting to taste the unusual pairing of a pilsner malt with an ale yeast, but original Baltic porters did use ale yeast at cooler lagering temperatures. When asked what type of beer he was expecting to win the competition, Larry approvingly replied “something just like this,” as he hoisted a pint of the hearty porter.
Congratulations, David, and thanks for a great beer!

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